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若作是言
‘我当灭度无量众生’,
则不名菩萨。

– 金刚经
(释迦牟尼佛)

If [to] make this statement,
‘I will deliver [to] Nirvāṇa immeasurable sentient beings’,
thus [is one] not named [a] Bodhisattva.

– Vajra Sūtra
(Śākyamuni Buddha)

Story: Within the Prajñā Sūtra, was mention of a Bodhisattva, whom after spending many years struggling to follow the Bodhisattva path, told the Buddha that once he thinks of how realising awakening needs such a long time, in addition to there being countless sentient beings who have yet to obtain liberation, he would feel discouraged.

The Buddha spoke of a parable in reply, asking him to imagine a mother who dreamt of her only child being swept away by rapids in a river. Although she was completely powerless at first, yet, amidst her painful suffering and desperation, she was willing to do anything to save her child, regardless of her own safety, even willing to sacrifice her own life.

That much time, with much mental and physical efforts are needed to save her child are completely not minded or considered at all. Due to the strength of her firmness and focused determination, she finally managed to save her child. Later, when she awoke, she realised that for saving her child, all her endured painful suffering, all her extremely great strife, and all her time spent did not exist before. Even her thought of having saved the child is just an illusion.

Lessons: [1] While it is relatively easier to give rise to Bodhicitta, the noblest aspiration to guide one and all to Buddhahood, it is much harder to sustain it for indefinite time, to put it into practice without thinking of giving up. [2] While the Buddha spoke of how a Bodhisattva is likened to a loving mother, and how each sentient being is likened to an only child of the Bodhisattva, every Buddha, being ‘perfect Bodhisattvas’, already see each and every non-Buddha being as an only child, who needs to be delivered to Buddhahood.

[3] A beginner Bodhisattva is initially powerless to truly save even one being, or not as skilfully effective as wished. However, if Bodhicitta is remembered and not given up, like how a truly loving mother will never abandon a lost child in danger, there will be unrelenting will and action to do what is necessary to save the child. [4] Even great personal efforts, suffering and dangers face life after life will be disregarded by great Bodhisattvas. Of course, training Bodhisattvas will be ever more skilled, and thus ever more safe, able to help more beings with more ease.

[5] True awakening is realisation that there are no saviours, no many beings (to be) saved and no saving – in the sense that just as the saviours and the saved are but changing aggregates of mind and matter with no enduring ‘self’, the process of saving and being saved are also empty of fixed characteristics or substance. Yet, there must still be saving, to guide more to realise this, which is true salvation.

[6] What we need to have is the mother’s selfless attitude and pure motivation, as expanded to see each being to be like an only child. This is key for ongoing diligence that leads to eventual success. The Pure Land path offers the swiftest and easiest way to give rise to such perfect Bodhicitta for all beings, where all beings can be clearly and equanimously perceived as having been our past children in our many interconnected past lives. Bodhisattvas there will also be able to ride upon the blessings of Amitābha Buddha to utilise great supernormal powers to most efficiently facilitate deliverance of many.

如是灭度
无量无数无边众生,
实无众生得灭度者。

– 金刚经
(释迦牟尼佛)

Thus delivering [to] Nirvāṇa
immeasurable, innumerable [and] boundless sentient beings,
[in] reality, no sentient beings attained deliverance [to] Nirvāṇa.

– Vajra Sūtra
(Śākyamuni Buddha)

Related Articles:

How Everyone Is Every Buddha’s Only ‘Child’
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/09/how-everyone-is-every-buddhas-only-child
Story In Chinese (translated as above)
https://www.weibo.com/ttarticle/p/show?id=2309403975343844232465

‘《般若经》里提到,有位菩萨经过多年挣扎着遵循菩萨道之后,他告诉佛说,他一想到获得证悟要花上这么久的时间,加上无数的众生都还未获得解脱,他就很气馁。佛陀以一个比喻回答了他:想象一个母亲梦见自己的独子被湍急的河流冲走。她完全无能为力,然而,在痛苦绝望中,她愿意做任何事情来救这孩子,不顾自己的安危,甚至愿意牺牲自己的性命。要花多长的时间来救这孩子,完全不是她在意的问题;要花多少心力来救他,也完全不是她的考量。由于坚定的力量和专一的决心,她终于把孩子从河里拉上来。然后,她醒过来了。她为了救这小孩所承受的一切痛苦、所付出的极大努力,以及她所投注的时间,都不曾存在过;甚至连她救了孩子性命的想法,也只是个幻相。’ – 宗萨仁波切

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